Published On: Thu, Aug 27th, 2015

Climate change threatens Balochistan’s livestock sector

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Bari Baloch

QUETTA, BALOCHISTAN: Twelve-year-old Jamal Marri with his two younger brothers takes his skeletal goats and sheep herd to various streets of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, for grazing every day. Idle plots, drains and open sewerage lines where residents dump garbage, are the favourite places for the herds in urban areas as different types of grass and plants grow here.

“We are cattle breeders by profession. My father said our grandfather had 3,000 goats and sheep, and my father once had over 1,000 cattle when he was in Sibbi,” says Jamal, while talking to the TNN. “But now we hardly have 50 goats and sheep.”

We have been compelled to move towards Quetta city since the pastures have withered in my native town Sibbi and other nearby districts which were once famous for grazing, he adds.

Livestock and agriculture sectors are the mainstay of economy of Balochistan, and approximately 70 per cent of the people are directly or indirectly linked with these sectors.

Livestock contributes about 40 per cent to the provincial GDP and Balochistan annually produces approximately 28,000 tonnes of beef and 204,000 tonnes of mutton.

“Balochistan passed through a long drought from 1997 to 2002 that dried up pastures and various orchards, directly affecting the livestock sector – hundreds of goats and sheep were perished in Nushki, Chagai, Khuzdar and other districts of Balochistan,” says Abdullullah Baloch, an environmentalist.

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“Still the situation is grave owing to erratic rains and variation in weather pattern,” he says, adding that as climate change is impacting agriculture and other sectors, it is also affecting the livestock sector, which is slowly and gradually shrinking.

Provincial authorities say almost 1.9 million people and 9.3 million livestock were affected; out of which 1.76 million perished in the long drought. A total of 1.9 million acres cultivable land was also affected.

Similarly, a Special Report of the FAO, released by the World Food Program Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Pakistan in 2001, says that as a result of the prolonged drought, heavy livestock losses were reported in Balochistan.

Out of the 55 million livestock heads of the country, about 23 million or nearly 42% belong to Balochistan.

However, a senior official in livestock department says the sector is recovering.

“Drought and desertification have reduced pastures and rangelands but there is still enough feed and fodder being produced by tube-wells and through other sources of irrigation.”

He says herds and flocks grazing in cities are mostly owned by those who bring the cattle for sale, and remain in the cities until they are done.

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Saeed Ahmed, an officer in agriculture department says heavy floods and long droughts have increased desertification, and ruined fertile lands in the province.

“Except two districts of Balochistan, irrigation is made through tube wells and streams, and the increased load shedding has decreased the production of crops, thus directly affecting the livestock sector,” he added.

Baloch says the rangelands besides serving as habitats for most of the wildlife also provide food to small flocks. But growing population, constant drought, over grazing and deforestation are causing depletion of rangelands.

“Serious steps are needed for protection of rangelands and pastures besides promoting other sources of food and fodder to boost livestock sector in Balochistan,” he adds.

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